Monthly Archives: January 2013

What my Brooks saddle and the Methodist Church have in common

As I was riding home (slowly) today. I realised that my Brooks Saddle and the Methodist Church have a lot in common.

This thought came while climbing the second big hill of the day when I thinking that my saddle was extremely hard today. So for your edification:

  • People either love or hate both Brooks saddles and the Methodist Church
  • After thousands of miles I am still not quite sure whether I am breaking in my Brooks saddle or it is breaking me in. After years in the Methodist Church it can feel the same.
  • Some consider Brooks saddles old fashioned and heavy just as some think the same of the Methodist Church
  • Yet Brooks saddles are updated and have new features that you may not be aware of, just like the Methodist Church.
  • If you have good experiences then both will serve you well for a lifetime. Otherwise both may be discarded and written off.
  • Both are local and support our local communities and economies

The good news is that a few miles down the road some magic has happened and I have forgotten the earlier discomfort. By the time I get home my bum would be quite happy for a lot longer on the Brooks B17 Select. Fortunately, given the way the retirement age keeps increasing I feel very much the same about serving the Methodist Church 🙂


Getting home from Launde to Syston

While today promised to be bright and beautiful after early morning rain the wind did not abate. So when the retreat at Launde Abbey finished at 11 it was time to hop onto my trusty bike for life complete with 22.7kg of stuff (yes I am sad, I weighed it when I got home).

There are a couple of steep climbs, firstly out of Launde and then into Halstead. With the wind forecast to be 22mph gusting to 40mph and dead on the nose I was not very quick. But I did overtake a couple of people who were walking and got up them there hills without any problem 🙂

Strava Ride | 31/01/2013 Launde to Syston.


Another retreat ride

Each year I come to Launde Abbey for a retreat (for Methodist Ministers in the Northampton District) and each year the programme includes free time in the afternoons. I find riding my bike soothing, relaxing and a great opportunity to reflect and pray, so I usually make time for a ride.

Today was again very windy (forecast was 40mph gusts) but I had a lovely ride to Oakham and back. Sadly the very nice Beans Coffee Shop was closed for refurbishment, a pretty major refurbishment as currently it has no roof! So I went into Costa. Then it was a headwind all the way back as well as lots of climbs.

In total 15 miles and 1,000 feet of climbing. Again I find my Shand Stoater Bike for Life very relaxing when climbing. I may not be very fast (an understatement) but it feels more like I will simply get there and more pleasant in the process than any of my other bikes. I think that is in part due to the Rohloff, in part due to comfort of the Jones Loop H-Bar with Ergon grips (and the fact that it is the only straight bar with an aerodynamic alternative hand position which makes a huge difference on a day like today), in part because the belt drive is so quiet and hassle free, and overall because the overall package feels so reliable and trustworthy that you relax in a way I haven’t on other bikes.



Quick Launde Loop

Despite a “free” afternoon on our “Pray for Change” retreat I only found time for a quick ride. 8 miles in very windy conditions and with plenty of hills for such a short distance.

Was just thinking that this is the 4th bike I have ridden to Launde with 5 retreats attended. Being me I still have all 4 bikes 🙂

  • Giant full suspension MTB (35 miles with snowstorm on the way, several inches of snow by the time I arrived)
  • Trek Pilot Road bike (two years ago)
  • Bullitt Cargo Bike (last year)
  • Shand Cycles Stoater my “Bike for Life” (this year).

One year I came by car but brought my Pearson Touché fixie with me (and had a couple of rides to Oakham, one of which continued around Rutland water). I did have to walk up several hills with that.

The Rohloff gears make the Shand Stoater the best for climbing hills, much more reliable and smoother than the Giant mountain bike, also a wider range than either the Trek or the Bullitt. However, with a very strong headwind I was reduced to 1st gear on one particularly steep section.

As usual the Shand also scores highly because it is always ready to go. Locked up outside but no worries about the rain washing oil off the chain (it doesn’t have one). Simply unlock, remove the saddle cover, clip on the garmin and go. When you return again no worries about cleaning or oiling the chain – super convenient!


After prep the actual ride

So after the preparation this morning came the ride.

It turned out to be very windy. In fact very very windy. Mostly a side wind which was not very pleasant with a large bag on the front VO Porteur Rack. However, at times it was a head wind which felt like hitting a brick wall. At one point I found myself pedalling hard downhill in order to reach the amazing speed of 12 mph. When I looked at the Met Office weather app it predicted gusts of 40mph. Fortunately, apart from some light rain in the wind it stayed pretty dry.

Anyway here are some pictures of the bike at approximately half way (my recently added spoke reflectors show up quite well):




You can see the route on both Strava and Garmin Connect.

So 854 feet climbed, an average moving speed of 9.9mph and about 14 miles ridden. I am quite ok with that as I was not rushing and it includes a longish climb up to Tilton on the Hill as well as a steep one just before Launde Abbey. I use 1st gear although without feeling as if I was at the limit and the wind was against me at the time.

For this type of ride the front panniers would have been nicer to ride with but the Mountain Equipment bag is much more convenient and larger (a 20 litre one would fit better on the rack).

As expected no problems or issues with the bike.


Bike prep for touring

In a little while I am off for my first fully loaded bike tour on my Shand Cycles Stoater, my Bike for Life.

Actually “tour” is not really the right description. I am riding to our annual Retreat for Ministers in the Northampton District of the Methodist Church, as usual it is at Launde Abbey. That is only 15 miles (with some quite steep hills) away. However, I am going to be fairly loaded up with ordinary clothes for 3 nights away, plus laptop, books, paperwork etc.

These kinds of journeys are very typical of my loaded bike use. Two years ago I went on my Bullitt Cargobike (see 4 blog posts about that 1, 2, 3, 4), last year I did a 100 mile ride to get there on my Trek.

A few years before those I rode to Launde from Raunds in Northamptonshire on my Giant Mountain Bike towing a Bob Yak Trailer. That time I got caught in a snow storm that left is snowed in for 3 days.

Today is going to be gentler and easier. Time means I need to go a direct route.

Anyway, I have just prepared my bike. That meant pumping a little air into my back tyre (first extra air since fitting the Marathon Plus tyres before Christmas) and I decided to give the disc brakes a clean with a disc brake cleaning spray. So the bike is already.

I am carrying a 30litre Mountain Equipment bag for clothing on the front VO Porteur rack and 2 Carradice CXarradry rear panniers with everything else in. Makes packing nice and quick.

Maybe more later, got to dash now.



Easier journeys

It surprises me that people are surprised when I choose to make journeys the easier and cheaper way.

Take today for example.

I needed to be in London for a meeting starting at lunchtime that will finish at lunchtime tomorrow. So I need to get to London with overnight stuff, my laptop and a stack of A4 paperwork.

To me the obvious option is to cycle to Leicester Station (5.4miles), get on the train with my bike and then cycle from St Pancras to the meeting (at Methodist Church House on Marylebone Street).

This is cheap (train tickets £40, cycle expenses at 20p per mile will be £3.04) and I don’t have to carry the heavy stuff at all. Driving would have cost the Church £96 at 45p per mile plus the cost of overnight parking (dread to think how much that would be around here)

It is also fast. Google Maps currently estimates 107 miles and 1 hours 57 minutes to drive (and that is ignoring traffic and the effects of snow. More importantly it also ignores parking). My journey took me 34 minutes to ride to the station (much slower than normal due to the snow), 1 hour 15 minutes on the train (where I was able to work) and 16 minutes from inside St Pancras Station to inside Methodist Church House. That is 8 minutes slower than a drive that does not allow for parking, getting from the parking place to the meeting or a stop for a coffee on the way.

If I had driven I could have saved the Church some money over driving alone by giving a colleague in South Leicester a lift. But using the train for two of us is still cheaper even without the car parking. However, I am allowed to charge an extra mileage rate if I give someone a lift so in fact the economics probably require 4 people to share a car to be cheaper than the train. As there are only 2 of us coming from Leicester that isn’t going to work out.

Our next meeting in April isn’t in London but High Wycombe, Bucks. I’ll be looking at cycling to that as it is under 100 miles, by cycling I can save money even with an overnight stay (assuming I am unwilling to hand around for 6 hours after the meeting to get the very cheapest rail ticket).


Alternate front rack

I have at last got around to switching over to the planned alternative front rack arrangement. This one is intended more for around town and general transportation with the other for longer rides and touring.

This is a VeloOrange Porteur Rack.





Note that the front light mounting is a temporary one made from two of the Tubus Low Rider struts. I would like it more central and just under the Porteur Rack, am looking for ways to mount it now.

I would also like wooden slats for this rack to make it a little more practical.


Strava Rapha Festive 500 Challenge Summary

So it is two days after the end of what become a bit of a rush to finish the 2012 Festive 500 Challenge. That meant 500km between the start of Christmas Eve and the end of New Years Eve.

This made a good end to the year and I manipulated things so that completing the challenge would also mean meeting my target of 5,500 miles for the year.

Nearly the whole distance was on my Shand Cycles Stoater, my Bike for Life and I’ll summarise how that felt in a moment. First here are the posts I have already written about the challenge:

So this included the longest ride on my Stoater since getting it in mid November, 75.7 miles (in  two parts with dinner at home with the family in between).

The Stoater has performed perfectly throughout the period. The only maintenance was that a bolt on the front rack and another on the rear rack shook loose. In both cases I took the wheel off to make sure that all the other bolts were tight. The front wheel I did in the hotel one night, the rear one at a lunch stop in Cannock Chase. Fortunately, the belt drive meant that taking the wheel off was not a dirty/oily task even though it was weeks since the only time the bike has been washed since new.

The only other “jobs” don’t really count as maintenance (I changed the angle of my Brooks saddle which stopped me sliding towards the front, I swapped the batteries on my Cateye extra rear light for fully charged ones and I cleaned the lens of my front Schmidt eDelux light).

So the Stoater had:

These are exactly the sort of features I was planning for when choosing my Bike for Life. What is more there are no outstanding jobs needing doing after the ride finished. So yesterday I jumped on with no preparation to go out to friends for a meal in smartish clothes.  Today, I rode nearly 7 miles into Leicester in normal clothes.

I do feel a bit guilty about not caring for my beautiful bike enough and so will be looking to make some time in the next few days to give it a nice clean. But that is only so Stephen Shand will still talk to me and not be ashamed of his customers 🙂

I was probably one of the slowest riders in the Festive 500km but I am sure I was also one of the most comfortable and one of the few to include rides in a suit.

I am now confident that I will be able to do 100 mile day rides easily on this Bike. The challenge is simply making enough time for them.

One of the highlights is that at the end of these rides with no cleaning of the drive train it is still running as silently and smoothly as my fixie does when it has just been cleaned and serviced (that is in gears 8 to 14 anyway as 1 to 7 are still being run in).

Another highlight are the brakes. The Hope Tech Evo V4 hydraulic disc brakes are wonderful, they look beautiful (I have the special edition with green highlights) and they just work unobtrusively. Totally confidence inspiring and a delight to use.

I am really pleased with the Finished Stoater Handlebars they have proved very comfortable, I am able to ride for miles in the more aerodynamic positions which I think are similar in performance to being on the hoods of my Trek Road Bike (and I never used the drops for very far at all).

As I mentioned the Shwalbe Marathons have also been a good upgrade. Not only no punctures but no need to pump them up and great combination of speed and comfort.

For these rides I was mostly using my Caradice Carradry front panniers on the rear rack, they are ideal for day rides when you want to carry a few clothes etc.

So I have now ridden some 750 miles on this bike. Are there any bits I would change?

  • The VO Mudguards have taken a bit of fettling to get right but now seem to be pretty good and staying reliably in place. So for the moment I have a provisional good opinion.
  • The Carradice Carradry panniers are fully waterproof and pretty convenient to use (the rack clips are still quite stiff but very secure). One rear pannier has had to be returned after the failure of 3 of the 4 rivets holding on the fixing rail. Slightly more fiddly to use than Ortlieb and lighter material but a lot cheaper. Summary: ok
  • Continental Tyres, don’t bother get Schwalbe Marathons.

No other changes or complaints!

So loving the bike and happy that the Festive 500 helped me achieve my target for 2012.


Strava Rapha Festive 500 result

Last night I completed the Strava Rapha Festive 500 challenge (ride 500km between start of Christmas Eve and end of New Years Eve).

Very pleased I finished (and with 20 minutes to go). Finishing this 500km challenge also meant I met my 2012 mileage goal of 5,500 miles.

Feels great, then you look at the numbers (which will change a bit as people can upload their rides until 3rd Jan).

Total entered 15,295 and out of these I am ranked 2712th.

In smaller categories I achieved the following:

UK: 1,992 entered. I came 341st

Age 45 to 54: 2,164 entered. I came 576th

My Weight Category: 1,557 entered. I came 252nd

It makes me realise that a few more categories are needed:

Festive 500: Kickstand

Open to anyone who completed the challenge only riding bikes with Kickstands (I did)

Festive 500: Really British

Rather than just living in the UK this should be stricter. I suggest

  • Rider needs to be a British Citizen
  • All rides need to be completely within Great Britain
  • The Bike frame and at least 2 components need to be made in Great Britain

Festive 500: Practical Bikes

The bikes need to be properly equipped with:

mudguards/fenders, rack, lights, bell or horn

Also the rides need to include:

Going to the shops to by groceries, going to work or riding for work, a city centre, rural lanes

Festive 500: Reliable low Maintenance 

The rider should have experienced no punctures and no equipment breakages

The bike should not have needed any maintenance, servicing, tweaking or cleaning

I failed this one as I needed to do the following to my bike:

  • tighten loose bolts holding front rack on
  • tighten loose bolt holding rear mudguard on
  • replace the batteries in the flashing rear light with freshly charged ones
  • adjust the angle of my brooks saddle
  • wipe the lens of my front light clean

But I did not need to do any oiling or cleaning

Festive 500: Bad loser

Award this to the person who moans about not winning anything and so invents extra categories until they find one that they win.

That is enough, surely I win at least one of these 🙂


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